Anyone who watched just an hour of Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony during the televised impeachment hearings was treated to a taste of class, wisdom and spunk — and a genuine profile in courage.
In a delicious twist of fate, her calm and credible performance also augured that Donald Trump would next be “going to go through some things” — a bit of irony not lost on the many government officials and other attendees at the hearing who gave ambassador Yovanovitch a standing ovation as she exited the chamber.
So too did Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman get an enthusiastic round of applause at the end of his opening statement when he invoked his late dad and rhetorically reassured him that he would be all right and not to worry about his imminent testimony. He honored his father by declaring that he had done the right thing in braving the risks of fleeing the Soviet Union in 1979 to bring the family to America — because in America “they don’t punish you for doing the right thing.”
Then there was the courageous “suffer no fools” testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill, a Russia expert and British-born American foreign affairs specialist who by all accounts has competently and faithfully served three American presidents. Her corroboration of the evidence presented, in the face of Republican attempts to demean her contributions to our nation and slander her reputation, left a proud legacy — and powerful example — for all mistreated, angry women.
Her warnings, aimed squarely at sycophant Republicans, including some of those on the very Intelligence Committee questioning her, was a challenge to stop their shameful support for long debunked conspiracy theories put out by the Russians and legitimized by right wing media outlets.
She urged Republicans to return to defending our country from Putin’s Machiavellian (my word) attacks designed to destabilize our democracy and snare increased influence around the globe. “Our nation is being torn apart; truth is being questioned (and) our highly professional expert career Foreign Service is being undermined,” she asserted, because of a shameless, self-serving refusal to abandon a mendacious dissembling of repeatedly corroborated facts.
The appearance at the hearings of David Holmes, senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, provided the “last nail in the coffin” testimony to prove firsthand (to my satisfaction anyway) that Trump not only knew about the attempted quid pro quo with President Zelenski, but that he himself was its shadowy, slithering source.
Republican leadership has much to answer for in this next election.
Unfortunately, the demise of independent, rural newspapers and the dearth of broadly trusted media outlets have left Americans with few obvious choices to get honestly brokered news. The increasing availability of “like” curated and digitally delivered news in compressed format for smartphones has changed the way large segments of the U.S. population get their news.
Though the public hearings provided accessible and irrefutable evidence that Donald Trump did attempt the extortion of a beleaguered ally for personal gain ... as with the long-awaited 442-page Mueller Report, the day long hearings had to be sliced up into dinner-time digestible video clips and sound bites to meet Americans’ work schedules.
Those clips were filtered to remove unnecessary and sometimes unwanted content. Then the edited results were framed and sent out to, in large part, anxiously waiting “smart” phone owners whose devices further filtered that news with algorithms programmed by giant social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to satisfy the pre-determined confirmation biases of individual news customers.
The days of a Walter Cronkite to lean on, or a common well from which to draw a safe “that’s the way it is” synthesis of the news from a universally trusted source have come and gone I’m afraid.
If you are lucky to be within range of the public-supported PBS network or the BBC, a British public service broadcaster, you at least have two relatively independent alternative sources to balance out the news (there ARE others). If you live in rural America however, your choices are often more limited.
But if Fox is your only go-to news source, by choice, and Facebook is your news anchor, then you are recklessly exposing yourself to layers of truth manipulation packaged as America’s “fair and balanced” reporting. While it is true that other networks are not free from political bias, I am certain that history will judge the role that the Fox network played prior to and during the Trump era was the most virulent catalyst in creating our country’s massive political polarization and shocking erosion of human rights and civil liberties protections.
Common sense regulation is long overdue to curb the dissemination of mass-produced lies and coded hate speech in right-wing media ... but in the Trump era, “regulation” is a dirty word.
Fox has metamorphosed into a Republican waterhole for the personality cult of zombified Trump worshipers. It’s where the lied-to and snake bitten go to be vaccinated against the truth so they can continue to think immigrants are why they can’t find good jobs, that climate change is a hoax, that the huge Trump tax cut for the rich and unqualified judges will bring about social and economic justice, and that, above all, if the righteous would only close their eyes and pray they would see that, in spite of separating children from their parents at the border and putting them in cages and banning refugees from entering our country to apply for asylum, God is still on their side.
It’s time for us to take a closer look at the Fox in our hen house.
Dan Gomes is a resident of Schenevus. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star or CNHI.